Can Angels carry three catchers?

Decision day is fast approaching. Catcher Bobby Wilson and outfielder Terry Evans are out of Minor League options and can’t be returned to Triple-A Salt Lake without the risk of losing them through waivers. Both almost certainly would be claimed.

Evans is competing with Robb Quinlan, Reggie Willits, Michael Ryan and Cory Aldridge for a backup outfield role. Quinlan can play four positions and is the most experienced of the group. Willits, held back by a hamstring strain, can be sent to Salt Lake, but he’s the only proven center fielder. Ryan has the advantage of being able to play the corner infield spots. Aldridge has scalded the ball all spring. Evans can drive the ball and play all three outfield spots.

It becomes a matter of choice, and it figures to come down to the final days of Spring Training after the club breaks camp and heads west.

The Wilson situation is far more complicated. The Angels have to decide if they can keep a third catcher in support of Mike Napoli and Jeff Mathis. If they can’t, Wilson will have to be dealt or lost.

Just the other day, manager Mike Scioscia liberally praised the 26-year-old Wilson, a Seminole (Fla.) High School teammate of former Angels first baseman Casey Kotchman who has spent seven years honing his skills in the farm system.

“Willie from the defensive end is a terrific catcher,” Scioscia said. “He’s got terrific, is a great receiver and throws well. From the offensive end, he’s going to be a good situational hitter. He’s going to be a good offensive player in the Major Leagues.

“Obviously, we have some decisions to make. He’s a player that is in our discussions as to what role he’ll have with us. He’s a good player who’s going to be able to catch every day in the Major Leagues when he has the opportunity.”

Wilson is hitting .316 in Cactus League play with a .435 on-base percentage. He skillfully managed 20-year-old Trevor Reckling through four scoreless innings against the Giants on Friday in his second spring start.

“I feel like I’ve gone out and played hard, gone after it, done everything I can to stick,” Wilson said. “I’m still trying to prove to the staff here that I am able to play, and I feel like I’ve done everything they’ve asked me to do. I’ve paid attention to the little details of everything that’s gone on.

“The one knock on me when I came up was, `Yeah, he can hit, but he’s an average catcher.’ To be voted best defensive catcher in the Pacific Coast League last year by the managers, that shows me I came in and did the job. I can block [pitches and the plate], I can throw, call a game, handle a pitching staff. I feel like I’m well-rounded.

“I pride myself on putting up zeros. Catching Trevor, 20 years old and facing Tim Lincecum, that wasa great experience for both of us. He did it with just his fastball and slider first time through the lineup, then we went to his changeup, one of his best pitches. He was in and out, back and forth, with a good tempo. That’s the one thing I pride myself in, that pitcher-catcher relationship.”

Carrying three catchers has benefits. It would give Scioscia flexibility with Napoli as a pinch-hitter and occasional designated hitter, while providing support in the event of injury to either of the main receivers.

Crucial to the makeup of the 25-man roster is the pitching staff, whether Scioscia decides to carry 11 or 12 arms. Brian Stokes’ ability to go multiple innings – he’s done it three times this spring – could swing it toward 11 pitchers . . . and one more roster spot for a position player.

Decision day draws near. – Lyle Spencer 


  1. halofanboston

    So if the Angels keep 3 catchers and 11 pitchers, that leaves 11 other players including Morales, Kendrick, Wood, Aybar, Rivera, Hunter and Abreu as starters (7). With 4 positions left you have Matsui at DH, Izturis, Quinlan and Evans.

    If it turns out that the Angels need more flexibility, do they deal one of their catchers and if so, who and with which team? I say Mike Napoli would be the most likely dealt since Scioscia likes defense and calling games and his bat would be a big bait package. Mathis could become more of an everyday catcher and Wilson back him up once or twice a week. Hank Conger would continue to hone his skills at Salt Lake and when he’s ready, he makes a big impact. I think Mathis could improve with his bat if he gets more consistent attempts at the plate.

    Matt Swift

  2. lleach

    I think you start the year with three catchers. Napoli could DH if Matsui proves not be so durable. Plus, if Wood bombs at third then move Morales over there where he has played before and put Napoli at first. Napoli was only an every-other-day player last season so he doesn’t need to play everyday to make an impact.

    If forced to trade one of the catchers I think I would trade Mathis. Napoli will hit 30+ HR if he plays everyday and is still a very adequate defensive player.

  3. mikay

    I don’t understand why people think shifting players from one position to another is so easy. There are very few players who have that ability (ie Izturis/Figgins). You’ll never see the Angels move move Morales to 3B. He’s staying at 1B period. I can see Napoli playing some DH if/when Matsui goes down but that is the extent of position changing we’ll see.

  4. avlon

    Yeah, I think Napoli has a future with the Angels so I wouldn’t trade him. For once, Naps admitted he doesn’t mind doing DH at all so I can see him as our full-time DH in the future (plus Matsui is only signed through 1-year). Mathis is a great defensive catcher so I would see him as the everyday catcher for the Angels with Napoli being everyday DH (eventually).

    Who I would trade? Well, that’s a tough one, but in the AL league that is built on offense to compete, unless Mathis can show he can be a great gap hitter (not necessarily a power hitter), he’s the one I would trade.

  5. lleach

    Not every player can switch positions but it is not all uncommon. Look at Wood moving from SS to 3B. Look at Quinlan playing at least four positions and being the emergency catcher. Kendrick played 1B for a few months a couple of seasons ago. If I remember right, Rivera played a little first base during spring training a year or two ago. Wasn’t there talk of having Wood play 1B when they were looking for a spot before Morales came?

    Morales played third at one point. Napoli could easily play first base, I imagine. But I agree with you, this is not likely.

  6. angelsgirl012

    oh dear! I think two is enough 😦 I love how the organization has such great catchers to choose from though. Ahh once again the problem every team would love to have. Last year i was impressed with Napoli. Last postseason and this year i’m impressed with Mathis. I like them both! And we still have Wilson and Conger down there 😦 Ai yai yai!

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